Does Left-Right Orientation Matter in Images?

by phil on Thursday Mar 25, 2004 11:06 PM

When I flip most images in Photoshop I feel that the idea of the image completely changes. As an amateur pundit on the cognitive sciences, I'm curious as to what, if any, left-to-right biases exist in visual perception.

The above graphic shows that to some degree, orientation matters.

This can be generalized to all images. Every image contains information, and some of that information must contain a non-zero quantity of process-flow (unless the image is symmetric). If there is a left-to-right bias in human perception, orientation would affect the meaning of the flow, making the difference, for example, between leaning forward into something or leaning backwards against something.

We could be offset by a right-handed bias or the Occidental practice of reading left to right. Who knows. Just wanted to stir up some thought here.

For prior research, I e-mailed Sensiti who said he hadn't read any theory about it, and I did some quick googling to no avail.

Note: The image is from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. My usage of a diagram is the result of being on an Edward Tufte kick. I was also inspired by Donald Morton's use of imagery on His emphasis on visual explanations makes for compelling consumption, which may explain how his site seems to have shot out of nowhere in terms of popularity. Since web surfers are notorious for their short attention span, this comes as no surprise.


ben said on March 27, 2004 5:40 PM:

I'm fascinated by trying to come up with theories about this, actually. It might be that evaluate the symbols based on our right-brained creativity associations before left-handed logic kicks in, hence left-to-right (since the hemispheres work in reverse on the body). I don't know, though. The right-handed bias is interesting EXCEPT that left-handed people don't tend to read right-to-left to compensate.

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